WASHINGTON – The Donald Trump administration put Cuba on Monday back on the US list of sponsors of terrorism, from which that country had been removed in 2015 by former President Barack Obama during the “thaw” in bilateral relations.
Nine days before Trump leaves the White House, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision that could potentially complicate the incoming Joe Biden administration’s chances for quickly resuming Washington’s rapprochement with Havana.
“With this action, we will once again hold Cuba’s government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice,” the top US diplomat said in a statement, justifying the move by saying that Cuba had repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism by giving safe refuge to terrorists.
“The Trump Administration has been focused from the start on denying the Castro regime the resources it uses to oppress its people at home, and countering its malign interference in Venezuela and the rest of the Western Hemisphere,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo accused Havana of having fed, sheltered and provided medical attention to murderers, bombmakers and kidnappers, while many Cubans are going hungry, are homeless and do not have basic medicines.
“Citing peace negotiation protocols, Cuba has refused Colombia’s requests to extradite ten ELN (National Liberation Army) leaders living in Havana after the group claimed responsibility for the January 2019 bombing of a Bogota police academy that killed 22 people and injured more than 87 others,” Pompeo said.
“Cuba also harbors several US fugitives from justice wanted on or convicted of charges of political violence, many of whom have resided in Cuba for decades,” he added.
He also accused Cuba of engaging in malign behavior throughout the Western Hemisphere, saying that Cuba’s intelligence and security services have infiltrated the Venezuelan armed and security forces and helped Venezuelan incumbent Nicolas Maduro maintain his domination of his people, all the while supporting dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the ELN.
The inclusion of a country on the black list of state sponsors of terrorism implies significant negative effects on that country’s trade and potentially more sanctions, but those restrictions are already in place on Cuba due to the longstanding US trade and financial embargo on the communist island.
After becoming president, Trump halted the normalization process with Havana launched in 2014 by Obama, whom Biden served under for eight years as vice president.
On Nov. 30, 2020, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez had called the apparent pending US reinclusion of Cuba on the black list a “maneuver ... to satisfy the anti-Cuban minority in Florida.”
After Pompeo’s announcement on Monday, Rodriguez was quick to condemn the US action, calling it a “hypocritical and cynical designation” and tweeting that “The political opportunism of this action is recognized by anyone with an honest regard for the scourge of terrorism and its victims.”
Last May, Washington had put Cuba onto the list of countries that do not “fully cooperate” with US anti-terrorism efforts – including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria.